December 07/2013


Bible Quotation for today/The Living Stone and the Holy Nation
01 Peter 02/013-10: "Rid yourselves, then, of all evil; no more lying or hypocrisy or jealousy or insulting language.  Be like newborn babies, always thirsty for the pure spiritual milk, so that by drinking it you may grow up and be saved.  As the scripture says, “You have found out for yourselves how kind the Lord is.” Come to the Lord, the living stone rejected by people as worthless but chosen by God as valuable.  Come as living stones, and let yourselves be used in building the spiritual temple, where you will serve as holy priests to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ.  For the scripture says, “I chose a valuable stone, which I am placing as the cornerstone in Zion; and whoever believes in him will never be disappointed.”  This stone is of great value for you that believe; but for those who do not believe: “The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all.” And another scripture says, “This is the stone that will make people stumble,
the rock that will make them fall.” They stumbled because they did not believe in the word; such was God's will for them. But you are the chosen race, the King's priests, the holy nation, God's own people, chosen to proclaim the wonderful acts of God, who called you out of darkness into his own marvelous light.  At one time you were not God's people, but now you are his people; at one time you did not know God's mercy, but now you have received his mercy.

Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For December 07/13

Saudi Arabia and Iran—and Israel/By: Ataollah Mohajerani/Asharq Alawsat/December 07/13

Nelson Mandela: A life’s legacy/The Daily Star/December 07/13


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For December 07/13
Lebanese Related News

Maalula Nuns Appear in Video, Say They're Fine, Will 'Leave in 2 Days'

Saudi Arabia Praises Suleiman's Recent Stances

Geagea Says al-Rahi Prefers Strong Presidential Candidate, Doesn't Veto Anyone
Jumblat Urges 'Full Political Cover' for Army in Tripoli, Slams Kidnap of Syria Nuns

Mufti al-Shaar Warns of Situation in Tripoli, Fears Outside Intervention

Salam Warns against Cabinet Formation Delay as Presidential Elections Loom

Government commissioner to the military court Judge Saq Saqr Charges Three with Carrying Out Terrorist Acts
Probe Opened into Floods in Airport Road, Lebanese University Campus

Wahhab: Syrian Warplanes to Bomb Armed Groups if They Attack Jabal Mohsen

Miqati Praises Lebanese-Saudi Relations, Says 'No Escape from Dialogue'

Military Court Sentences Reporter to Jail

Talks avert anticipated Tripoli clashes

Berri warns of power vacuum

Shahhal Cancels Tripoli Protest, Averting Showdown with Army

Qabbani Accuses Miqati, Saniora of Taking HIC Row to Mosques

Paoli Expresses Fear over Ongoing Cabinet Crisis, Urges Officials to End Standstill

Kanaan Slams Geagea's Stance on FPM Initiative, Says No Hidden Intentions
Lebanese leaders hail Mandela, offer condolences


Miscellaneous Reports And News''

Kerry brings plan integrating West Bank security in planned US-led anti-Al Qaeda regional force

Kerry: Israel-Palestinian peace deal has never been closer

World unites in mourning for Mandela
Mandela to Be Laid to Rest on Dec. 15 after One Week of Mourning in SA

Suicide Bomber Kills Five Outside Syria Militia HQ
Jordan Elected to U.N. Security Council

Egypt Detains Coptic Christian Reporter

Blast damages IDF vehicle patrolling Syrian border

British FM Says Assad Must Go for Settlement in Syria

Syrian rebels defect in droves

Jordan to take Saudi Arabia's place at UN Security Council


Maalula Nuns Appear in Video, Say They're Fine, Will 'Leave in 2 Days'
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/A group of nuns reportedly abducted from Syria's Maalula appeared Friday in a video broadcast by Al-Jazeera television, in which they reassured that they are in good health and would be released “in two days.” “We are fine. We're staying at a beautiful villa and we'll leave in two days,” says one of the nuns in the video. “We left the monastery because of the intensity of shelling … We call for an end to the shelling of churches and mosques … Our hosts are kind and they have taken care of us,” says another nun. “We will leave in two days,” says a third nun. A fourth held woman added: “We were treated in a good manner and we're happy because we were evacuated from the monastery.” A rebel group calling itself the Ahrar al-Qalamoun Brigades said Friday that the nuns were in a safe place, stressing that will not be released before the realization of several demands, topped by “the release of 1,000 Syrian women detainees from the prisons of the Syrian regime.” Jihadists and opposition fighters on Monday entered the Syrian Christian town of Maalula and took 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns from the Mar Takla Monastery to the Yabrud area in Qalamoun, near Damascus. The Vatican slammed the move as an “abduction.”Pope Francis called for prayers Wednesday for the nuns. Religious officials in the region have said the women were abducted, but a Syrian opposition activist said they were merely removed for their own safety. The 12 nuns join two bishops and a priest who are already believed to be held by hardline rebels, deepening concerns that extremists in the opposition's ranks are targeting Christians. Speaking to a crowd gathered for the pontiff's general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, the pope invited "everyone to pray for the sisters of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Santa Takla in Maalula, Syria, who were taken by force by armed men two days ago." The Qalamoun region boasts a sizable Christian population and is home to the ancient Christian village of Maalula and its Mar Takla convent. Church leaders and pro-rebel activists said the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front seized the nuns from Mar Takla on Monday. Maalula was a popular tourist attraction before the conflict began. Some of its residents still speak a version of Aramaic, a language spoken by Jesus.

Geagea Says al-Rahi Prefers Strong Presidential Candidate, Doesn't Veto Anyone

Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has said that Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi does not put a veto on any candidate for the presidency. In terse remarks to al-Liwaa newspaper published on Friday, Geagea said that his ties with Bkirki were excellent and that he was in continuous contact with al-Rahi. “There are ongoing contacts even if the security circumstances don’t allow me to visit the seat of the Maronite church at this stage,” he said. “Al-Rahi does not put a veto on any candidate for the presidency,” Geagea told al-Liwaa, which said that the patriarch had intensified his contacts with Maronite leaders either directly or through envoys ahead of next year's elections. “He doesn't have a specific candidate but he prefers a strong Christian president and hopes for the presidential elections to be held on time to avoid a vacuum,” Geagea said. President Michel Suleiman's six-year term ends in May 2014. Al-Liwaa said that al-Rahi was keen on staying at an equal distance from all possible candidates and mainly Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh, the head of the Phalange party, Amin Gemayel, and Geagea. None of them however has announced his candidacy yet.
According to Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite.


Miqati Praises Lebanese-Saudi Relations, Says 'No Escape from Dialogue'
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati called on Friday for dialogue on all issues in the country, hailing the relations of “brotherhood” between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. “There is no escape from dialogue on all issues and between sects, parties and authorities,” Miqati said in a speech he gave at the opening ceremony of the Beirut 57th International Arab Book Fair 2013, vowing that “he will not relinquish his responsibilities.” He added: “We will not allow anyone to destroy the accomplishments of civil society and we will exert all efforts to alleviate tension.” “There is no place for pessimism.”
Miqati praised at the beginning if his speech the great participation in Friday's event “despite the critical conditions Lebanon is going through, saying it reflects Lebanon's “leading role.”He also welcomed all Arab delegations present at the Book Fair's opening, giving a special salute to Saudi Arabia. The caretaker premier said: “Lebanon is proud of its relations with Arab countries and we particularly welcome Saudi Arabia that wants the best for Lebanon.” Miqati's comments on Lebanese-Saudi relations come days after Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told OTV in an interview on Tuesday that militants with links to the Saudi intelligence were involved in the double suicide bombings that targeted the Iranian Embassy in Beirut's southern suburbs. The attack, which was carried out by a Lebanese and a Palestinian and which left scores of casualties, including an Iranian diplomat, was linked to Riyadh's hostility against Iran, he said. “We believe the statement in which the Abdullah Azzam Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack on the Iranian embassy because it is a well-known group and its emir is Saudi and it is linked to the Saudi intelligence,” Nasrallah stated. On the ongoing regional turmoil, Miqati expressed that the “bloody conflicts” are destroying countries and hurting people. “We are going through the toughest days in history. Each country is suffering problems that are draining its potentials and main issues have become secondary.” He explained: “The Palestinian cause is not a priority anymore.”

Wahhab: Syrian Warplanes to Bomb Armed Groups if They Attack Jabal Mohsen
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Arab Tawhid Party leader Wiam Wahhab on Friday warned that Syrian warplanes would strike the “armed groups” in Tripoli if they decided to “attack Jabal Mohsen.” Wahhab, who is close to the Syrian regime, held the Lebanese state responsible for the unrest in Tripoli, noting that security incidents will not end anytime soon in the northern city.
“Tasking the army with containing the situation in Tripoli is just talk in the media if we pay attention to what's happening on the ground, as the armed groups want to attack Jabal Mohsen and they will be bombed by Syrian warplanes then, the same as what will happen in Arsal should the situation continue there as it is now,” Wahhab said in an interview on al-Manar television. Wahhab hoped the Lebanese army will “shoulder the responsibility of containing the situations in Tripoli and Arsal to avoid the intervention of the Syrian army.” “But at the same time we must not ask the army to do things beyond its capability,” he added. Wahhab also stressed that “the choice of the Sunni community has always been the state, even during the civil war.”Lashing out at President Michel Suleiman, Wahhab added: “The president of the republic must realize that his election was unconstitutional and anyone could have submitted a challenge and ousted him.” The pro-Damascus politician also expressed confidence that “the presidential election will not take place and we will remain in a political vacuum.”
Following a meeting with President Michel Suleiman and Army chief General Jean Qahwaji in Baabda on Monday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati announced that the army will be entrusted with Tripoli's security for six months and that all security forces in the city will be put under its authority. The army carried out raids in Tripoli and arrested gunmen and fugitives in the wake of the decision.
At least 11 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in clashes that started Saturday between the rival Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The army has managed to largely contain the situation after a forceful intervention. The fighting in the city is linked to the war raging in neighboring Syria. Bab al-Tabbaneh district, which is majority Sunni, and Jabal Mohsen, whose residents are from Syrian President Bashar Assad's sect, have been engaged in severe gunbattles since the revolt against him in March 2011. Tensions soared in the city in August when twin car bombings hit Sunni mosques and left hundreds of casualties. Authorities arrested several members of the Arab Democratic Party, whose stronghold is in Jabal Mohsen, on suspicion they were involved and they summoned the group's leader, Ali Eid, for questioning. Eid has refused to be questioned by police for not being “impartial." His son, Rifaat, said his father is ready to go to any security agency other than the Interal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau. The latest round of violence erupted last week when Jabal Mohsen residents were shot in their feet in vengeful sectarian attacks.

Military Court Sentences Reporter to Jail

by Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/A Lebanese court has sentenced reporter Rami Aysha to six months in jail, a press freedom watchdog said Friday, calling for the conviction to be scrapped and all charges dropped.
Aysha was abducted on August 30 in southern Beirut, a bastion of Hizbullah, while investigating a story on arms trafficking, and then turned over to Lebanese authorities, who jailed him. "During this process, he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured," the Reporters Without Borders watchdog said. He was released on bail on September 27, and then sentenced in absentia last week by a military court to six months in jail "on a charge of purchasing firearms," RSF said. Aysha is currently outside of Lebanon but plans to return on December 8, when authorities are expected to arrest him in Beirut airport. RSF, citing Aysha, said he would "be held indefinitely by the Public Security Department pending a new trial before the military court." A new trial "could result in the confirmation of the (latest) judgment and sentence to prison," RSF added. Speaking to Agence France Presse via the Internet, Aysha said he would challenge the judgment. "I will challenge this (ruling)," he said, adding that he would not cancel his return home, despite the sentence. "This is the place where I live and I don't care about their injustice. I will never stop reporting," he added. RSF called for all charges against Aysha to be dropped. "We call for the definitive withdrawal of all the proceedings against Aysha and the quashing of his conviction," RSF said. "As a journalist, Aysha was doing a story on arms trafficking when arrested. It is crucial that the Lebanese judicial authorities distinguish between journalistic investigation and illicit trafficking." Swiss NGO Alkarama, which co-signed the RSF statement, also condemned Aysha's conviction in military court. "Trials of civilians before military courts such as Aysha's trial cannot be regarded as fair," it said. Aysha works for several international news organizations including Time Magazine and Spiegel Online. Source/Agence France Presse.


Shahhal Cancels Tripoli Protest, Averting Showdown with Army
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Salafist cleric Dai al-Islam al-Shahhal canceled on Friday a sit-in that he had called for in the northern city of Tripoli in protest against the army’s crackdown on gunmen, averting a showdown with the military. Shahhal said that he would replace the protest with prayers at the Grand Mansouri Mosque. There were fears on Friday that the protest would spiral out of control, a day after skirmishes between the army and angry gunmen, which sources said left a soldier dead. The army did not confirm the report late Thursday but urged “everyone to cooperate with the army's measures … which aim at restoring security and stability in the city.” Several suspects were arrested, it said in a communique.  Some of the Sunni gunmen opened fire on army patrols on Thursday to protest raids carried out across Tripoli to arrest fighters, who engaged in deadly gunbattles with their rivals from the Alawite sect. Al-Shahhal's announcement that he had canceled the protest was seen as a triumph for contacts among officials aimed at sparing the city a major escalation. But al-Shahhal accused the army of being biased, telling LBCI that some of its officers were bypassing the law. The latest fighting comes after authorities decided on Monday to place Tripoli under army control for six months after a wave of sectarian killings linked to Syria's war left scores of casualties. Residents of the Sunni district of Bab al-Tabbaneh had been locked in fighting with people in the neighboring Alawite district of Jabal Mohsen since Saturday. Tensions between the neighborhoods date back to Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war but have been exacerbated by the conflict across the border in Syria, where Alawite President Bashar Assad is battling a Sunni-led uprising.

Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani Accuses Miqati, Saniora of Taking HIC Row to Mosques
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani accused Caretaker Premier Najib Miqati and al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc chief Fouad Saniora of expanding the tension inside the Higher Islamic Council. “Miqati, Saniora and (Deputy head of the Higher Islamic Council Omar) Mesqawi, along with the council members are widening the gap and taking the differences to mosques,” Qabbani told As Safir daily in remarks published on Friday. “Mosques should be kept at a distance from the differences,” said Qabbani, a day before the scheduled meeting of the HIC. But the Council is divided between the members led by the Mufti and those headed by Mesqawi, who insists on holding the meeting in downtown Beirut's Mohammed al-Amin mosque. The Council, which elects the Mufti and organizes the affairs of Dar al-Fatwa, has been at the center of controversy after 21 of its members, who are close to ex-Premier Saad Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement, extended its term despite Qabbani's objection. The Mufti later held elections for the Council, which current and former premiers, including Miqati and Saniora, deemed illegal for violating Shura Council decisions to halt the polls. Qabbani will hold the meeting on Saturday at the headquarters of Dar al-Fatwa, which is Lebanon’s top Sunni religious authority. He accused Saniora and Mesqawi of committing violations against Lebanon's Sunnis. “The Council, whose term had expired and which extended it until June 30, 2015, is violating the right of the head of the Council, meaning the Mufti, and his authorities,” he told As Safir.

Jumblat Urges 'Full Political Cover' for Army in Tripoli, Slams Kidnap of Syria Nuns
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Friday warned against “leaving the army alone in Tripoli” and strongly condemned the abduction of nuns from the Syrian Christian town of Maalula at the hands of Syrian rebels. In a statement, the PSP leader cautioned against “leaving the army alone in Tripoli without offering it full political cover, firstly from Tripoli's figures and secondly from the rest of Lebanese figures, so that it can fully perform its duties and restore security and stability in the city.” On Thursday, army troops came under gunfire in Tripoli's Bab al-Tabbaneh and al-Qobbeh, in protest at its entry into Bab al-Tabbaneh and arrest of fugitives, which followed a decision by the caretaker cabinet to entrust the army with Tripoli's security for a period of six months. Jumblat noted that the statements of condemnation “are not enough anymore amid the daily hemorrhage in the city and the falling of innocent civilian and military martyrs.” The PSP leader said “what's required is drying up the sources of funding of all armed groups and cooperation among the security and judicial authorities to identify and arrest all those involved in these incidents to avoid leaving the army alone in this war of attrition.” “The military institution has proved that it is for all the Lebanese without any discrimination or bias, but the main responsibility falls on all the components of the Lebanese political community to turn their words into deeds,” Jumblat added, saluting “all the martyrs of the Lebanese army.” Separately, Jumblat deplored “the kidnap of the nuns in Maalula, the same as we had condemned all the incidents of kidnapping which usurp personal freedom and violate humanitarian principles.” He said that the conduct of the brigade that abducted the nuns was a “replica of the regime's behavior” and an act that harms “the goals of the revolution.” Jumblat pointed out that the several kidnappings were a “result of the continuous support of some regional countries and axes for some armed groups at the expense of the main aspirations of the Syrian people who are seeking freedom, democracy and dignity.” The Druze leader also called for the release of the abducted bishops Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim, who were kidnapped near Aleppo several months ago. On Monday, jihadists and opposition fighters stormed the Christian town of Maalula near Damascus, abducting 12 Lebanese and Syrian Greek Orthodox nuns.


Government commissioner to the military court Judge Saq Saqr Charges Three with Carrying Out Terrorist Acts
by Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/Government commissioner to the military court Judge Saq Saqr charged three men with plotting to carry out terrorist activities, the state-run National News Agency reported on Friday. The three men hail from Jabal Mohsen neighborhood in the northern city of Tripoli. They were also charged with forming two rival political and military parties, carrying out terrorist acts, exchanging gunfire with Bab al-Tabbaneh, attempted murder of civilians and soldiers and destructing public and private institutions. Saqr referred the three men to the First Military Investigation Judge Riyad Abu Ghida. Hundreds of policemen from different parts of Lebanon have been sent to Tripoli to help improve security, working under the army's command. The army has been authorized to take charge of security in Tripoli for six months following the deadly sectarian clashes by rival sides stemming from the civil war in neighboring Syria. Tensions soared in the city in August when twin car bombings hit Sunni mosques and left hundreds of casualties. A soldier was killed and 6 others were wounded on Thursday evening after gunmen protested raids by troops across the city, accusing the military of targeting the Sunni sect. On Wednesday night, unknown assailants tossed two stun grenades at Syria street, which separates the rival neighborhoods of Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh. At least 10 people have been killed and 100 others wounded in clashes between the rival Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen since last week. The latest round of violence erupted last week when Jabal Mohsen residents were shot in their feet in vengeful sectarian attacks.


Probe Opened into Floods in Airport Road, Lebanese University Campus
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/The Financial General Prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim opened on Friday an investigation into the floods at the Lebanese University campus in Hadath and the blocked sewers in the airport road's tunnel. According to the state-run National News Agency, Ibrahim ordered the Ministry of Finance and the Minister of Public Works to carry out the Investigations. Caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi al-Aridi was heavily criticized over neglect. On Thursday, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati instructed the specialized agencies to deal with the chaos on the streets caused by heavy rains and asked security apparatuses to be on standby for more storms. Miqati's instructions came as Lebanon witnessed a second day of total chaos on the streets and mainly in Beirut and its suburbs. One side of the airport road's tunnel was shortly blocked during the morning rush hour after a Civil Defense Department vehicle used to pump out the accumulating rainwater broke down. Thursday's incident added to the woes of the people, who a day earlier spent hours on the roads after they were blocked due to severe rain. The heavy rains rendered the airport road completely impassable on Wednesday. TV footage showed vehicles submerged in water inside the tunnel. Law and Political Science Faculty at the Lebanese University campus was also submerged with heavy rain.


Saudi Arabia Praises Suleiman's Recent Stances
Naharnet Newsdesk 06 December 2013/President Michel Suleiman received a phone call from a prominent Saudi figure, thanking him on his statements that support Saudi Arabia, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Friday. Baabda Palace sources told the newspaper that Suleiman's “stance wasn't to take sides with any axis in the region but to defend Lebanon's interest.” “Saudi Arabia supports Lebanon on many levels,” the sources said,
On Wednesday, the President slammed the criticism directed against Saudi Arabia by some officials in Lebanon, rejecting meddling in the affairs of other countries, hinting at statements by Hizbullah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah accused Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in an interview aired on OTV of being behind the deadly bombings that targeted the Iranian embassy in southern Beirut, lashing out at the role played by Saudi Arabia in Lebanon. Al-Joumhouria also reported on Friday that Saudi Arabia Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri, who departed Lebanon at the end of November, will remain in Riyadh until further notice and will not return to Lebanon anytime soon.

Lebanese leaders hail Mandela, offer condolences

December 07, 2013/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: President Michel Sleiman and other leading Lebanese political figures offered condolences over the loss of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Friday. “In my name and on behalf of the Lebanese people, I offer you my heartfelt condolences ... and in the hope that his memory will stay alive in the pages of our modern history,” Sleiman said in a letter to South African President Jacob Zuma. “I received with sadness the news of the death of the historic leader and former president of your friendly country Nelson Mandela who inspired the world with his path, fighting to eliminate racism and poverty to achieve equality and reconciliation among his people,” he added.
Sleiman said that with the passing of Mandela the world had lost a man who believed in humane principles regardless of race, color or affiliation. Mandela, the first black South African president who led the reconciliation efforts in his country after the collapse of the apartheid regime, died late Thursday aged 95. He had fought a long battle with a lung infection. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri also paid tribute to Mandela, saying that the late president demonstrated that a diverse society could become a successful model of democracy. “He proved that a society with all these racial and religious differences and this violent heritage can become a successful pluralistic democracy,” Hariri said, according to a statement from his office. Hariri said Mandela and his legacy embodied examples of the values of “forgiveness, reconciliation and the recognition of the other.”
Hariri praised Mandela for shunning all vengeful and domineering attitudes by championing values such as dialogue and forgiveness.  “[Mandela was well-aware] that true freedom cannot happen without forgiveness and adherence to the values of justice and coexistence,” Hariri said. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker Nabih Berri also sent letters to Zuma. In his letter, Berri said “Mandela was a global icon who taught the world that bravery, dignity, humility and forgiveness can surpass adversity.” The head of Hezbollah’s International Relations Department, Ammar Musawi, expressed his condolences over the loss of Mandela during a meeting with South African Ambassador Sean Penny. Penny, for his part, offered condolences over the recent assassination of a Hezbollah commander.

Question: "What should we learn from the life of Job?" The life of Job is proof that man usually has no idea what God is doing behind the scenes in the life of each believer. All humans ask the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" It is the age-old question, and one that is sometimes difficult to answer in human terms, but believers have an advantage because we know that God is always in control, and, no matter what happens, there are no coincidences—nothing happens by chance. Job was such a man; he knew that God was on the throne and in total control, though he had no way of knowing why so many terrible tragedies were occurring in his life.
Job never lost his faith in God, even under the most heartbreaking circumstances that tested him to his core. It’s hard to imagine losing everything we own in one day—property, possessions, and even children. Most men would sink into depression and even become suicidal after such a nightmare; however, Job never wavered in his understanding that God was still in control. Job’s three friends, on the other hand, instead of comforting him, gave him bad advice and even accused him of committing sins so grievous that God was punishing him by making his life miserable. Job knew God well enough to know that He did not work that way; in fact, he had such an intimate, personal relationship with Him that he was able to make the statement, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).
There is another lesson in the book of Job, and that concerns the bond between husband and wife. Satan declared war on Job, trying to prove that he was only faithful to God because God had blessed him. God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith, but He stopped him at the point of taking Job’s life (Job 1:12). God declares that a husband and wife are “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24); therefore, because of this God-ordained bond, Satan was forbidden to take the life of Job’s wife, as well as that of Job. She obviously did not have faith like that of Job, because her response to the calamity was to tell Job to “curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). Her faith did not spare her, but her marriage bond with Job did. She was considered the same flesh as her husband, so Satan could not take her life, either.
Job’s plight, from the death of his children and loss of his property to the physical torment he endured, plus the unending harangue of his so-called friends, still never caused his faith to waver. He knew who his Messiah was, he knew that He was a living Savior, and he knew that someday He would physically stand on Planet Earth (Job 19:25). The spiritual depth of Job shows throughout his writings. He understood that man’s days are ordained (numbered), and they cannot be changed (Job 14:5). Job described the experience of salvation as one in which men, destined to eternity in “the pit,” are ransomed and redeemed by a gracious God who shines His light on them (Job 33:23-30). There are also many scientific and historical facts in the book of Job. He wrote that the earth is round long before it was proven to be so, referring to the “circuit of heaven” (Job 22:14). He spoke of dinosaurs, living not before man was created as secularists teach today, but living side-by-side with man, as stated in Job 40:15: "Now behold behemoth, which I made along with you; he eats grass like an ox” (KJV).
The book of Job gives us a glimpse behind the veil that separates earthly life from the heavenly. In the beginning of the book, we see that Satan and his fallen angels are still allowed free access to heaven, going in and out to the prescribed meetings that take place there. What is obvious from these accounts is that Satan is busy working his evil on Planet Earth, as recorded in Job 1:6-7. Also, this account shows how Satan is “the accuser of the brethren,” which corresponds to Revelation 12:10, and it shows his arrogance and pride, as written in Isaiah 14:13-14. It is amazing to see how Satan challenges God; he has no scruples about confronting the Most High God because he has no fear of Him. The account in Job clearly shows Satan as he truly is—haughty, pride-filled, and evil to the core.
Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn from the book of Job is that God does not have to answer to anyone for what He does or does not do. What we learn from Job’s experience is that we may never know the specific reason for suffering, but we must trust in our sovereign, holy, righteous God whose ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). If God’s ways are “perfect,” then we can trust that whatever He does—and whatever He allows—is also perfect. This may not seem possible to us, but our minds are not God’s mind. It is true that we can’t expect to understand His mind perfectly, as He reminds us “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Nevertheless, our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. When we do, we will see more clearly the magnificence of our God and we will say, with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).
Recommended Resources: Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance by Charles Swindoll and Logos Bible Software.

Kerry brings plan integrating West Bank security in planned US-led anti-Al Qaeda regional force

DEBKAfile Exclusive Report December 6, 2013/The security plan, which US Secretary of State John Kerry brought with him Thursday, Dec. 5, on his eighth trip for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, entails deploying a regional international force including US troops along the Jordan Rift Valley and West Bank in a future Palestinian state. This is reported by debkafile’s military and counterterrorism sources. The plan, drawn up by Gen. John Allen, was presented by Kerry for the first time to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The security provisions Washington promised Israel under a final settlement of its dispute with the Palestinians are assuming a broader, regional form as a US blueprint, on which the Obama administration is still working, for a Middle East regional force to combat Al Qaeda. This force would secure parts of Syria, as well as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the future Palestinian state and Israel against Al Qaeda attack from positions in Syria, Iraq and Sinai. The secretary of state proposed integrating Israeli and Palestinian special forces units in the planned regional counter-terror force, alongside the American, British, French, Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian and Qatari units enlisted to the new framework Since its area of operation would be extensive, ranging from southern Syria to Sinai, including Israel and the potential Palestinian state, the IDF would be able to continue performing its security functions in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, as part of the new force. But by the same rule, Palestinian forces would be allowed by mutual consent to serve in parts of Israel in the same multinational framework.
The public groundwork for this plan is already being laid by means of extensive reporting in Western media which magnify the ever-present menace Al Qaeda poses to the United States and West Europe from its concentrations in Syria and Iraq. The US and British media have been fed materials depicting thousands of young American, European, Saudi and Jordanian Islamists flocking to Syria to fight with Al Qaeda-affiliated rebel militias against Bashar Assad and their potential as ticking terror bombs on their return home.
British intelligence, not normally forthcoming on terrorist threats, provided detailed information Friday, Dec. 5, about sophisticated, hard-to-detect bombs, newly developed by the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in Arabia (AQAP), and made of non-metallic and low-vapor explosives disguised as harmless objects like shoes, clothing or soft drink bottles to fool international airport and border post scanners.
All these reports lay stress on the operational links between AQAP and Al Qaeda branches in Syria and Egyptian Sinai.
Thursday, the day Kerry arrived in Israel, Al Qaeda staged one of its biggest operations in recent times against the Yemeni Defense Ministry in Sanaa. It claimed at least 52 lives and injured up to 200 people. Suicide bombers rammed the ministry compound’s gates setting off explosives in cars and bomb belts, while gunmen stormed the defense ministry building and hospital annex, gunning down any personnel they met, including foreign staff. Among the dead were six doctors. US forces across the region, including Jordan, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa, were immediately placed on high terror alert. Friday, as the Secretary of state met the Israeli prime minister for the third time and headed off to the Palmachim Air Force base to inspect the Arrow missile interceptor, US forces in Israel, the embassy in Tel Aviv and General Consulate in Jerusalem were also placed on heightened alert against a major terrorist strike. The Yemeni attack was viewed by experts as an Al Qaeda demonstration of defiance, to show the visiting American official that Washington’s evolving security strategy was no match for its own ability to launch surprise attacks anywhere in the region on the most heavily guarded facilities. Prime Minister Netanyahu is reported by debkafile’s Jerusalem sources as open to the new security proposal put before him by the secretary of state, although he was familiar with some of its elements from earlier discussions between US and IDF officers on the situation in southern Syria and Jordan and how to deal with it.
The Palestinian leader, however, was much more reserved. At first he turned the plan down, but then agreed to look into it in consultation with the Saudis and Jordanians.

Saudi Arabia and Iran—and Israel

By: Ataollah Mohajerani/Asharq Alawsat
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is one of the very few Iranian political figures who have had good relations with Saudi Arabia’s leaders. In an interview with the Financial Times on November 26, he said that he was ready to travel to Riyadh and that he had been invited by King Abdullah to perform last month’s Hajj. His intention would be “to reassure the Saudis that friendship with Iran benefits the region and both countries.”
But Iran’s leaders first needed to agree on policies of de-escalation. A future trip needed preparation and a decision within Iran on how they were going to deal with Saudi Arabia in a mutually beneficial manner.
I remember that during and after the Iraq–Iran War relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia deteriorated, and it led to mistrust and animosity between the two sides. Back then, Saddam was claiming that the war was between Magog (a barbarian horde) and the Arabs. And then, when he occupied Kuwait, he claimed that the Kuwaitis—including the Al Sabah family—are not Arab, but rather dukhala (non-Arab intruders).
Back then, King Abdullah met Hashemi Rafsanjani in Senegal, and then in Pakistan. These meetings marked the beginning of a new chapter for Iran and Saudi Arabia. Both leaders decided to renew and strengthen the relationship between these two important Middle Eastern countries. On the role Hashemi Rafsanjani can play in securing Arab countries’ trust towards Iran, let me remind you of the history of warm relations between Hashemi Rafsanjani and King Abdullah. This started from the Islamic Countries Conference Summit in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1995. It was after this meeting that bilateral ties considerably improved and during Khatami’s presidency a security pact was signed between the two countries.
Cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia would facilitate solutions for Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. There may be differences between the two countries and their Sunni and Shi’a approaches, but these are not unresolvable. Dr. Mohammad Ali Hadi, Iran’s Ambassador to Riyadh during Hashemi Rafsanjani’s time, said in an interview with Saudi Arabian media that Iran and Saudi Arabia could be—and should be—the two strong wings of the Islamic world. In addition, he said that Iran and Saudi Arabia, as the two wings of Islam, could not fly in the absence of the other. It is clear that whenever there was some cloud between two countries, the problems in the region were intensified. On the other hand, when the two countries decided to resolve their problems and did their best to attain their common goals, it benefited both of their governments and nations. We should realize that politics is not rigid, like a stone, but rather flexible, like a net. After the Geneva P5+1 agreement with Iran, I think this is now the right time to renew the relations among the countries in the region, and adopt a new approach. We have to focus on what would benefit the Islamic world. Israel has been far from happy with the recent Geneva agreement. James Carafano—vice-president, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies and Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation and a pro-Israel writer—compared Iran’s nuclear deal to the Munich agreement of 1938. On the other hand, one of my dear friends in our own newspaper wrote an article in which he compared the Geneva agreement to 9/11.
Israel wanted to be a second America in the region. Now that their dream has been destroyed, the Israelis have been stressing the danger of Iran for the region more than ever before. They have even started to claim that the Arab countries in the region support Israel on this. This, as Qur’an says, is fitna (chaos). What we have to take into consideration here is that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, keeps extending its Jewish settlements in Palestine, and exaggerates the danger of Iran. Above all, it says that it is defending the right of the region and Arab countries. Who could possibly believe that? Hashemi Rafsanjani stated that Israel, as a small fish, cannot eat a big fish. This means the scenario of a new Middle East in the Israeli dream is not going to work. This is really the time for all Islamic countries to focus on Palestine. As we know, Israel has a plan to make the world forget about Palestine, and it into a forgotten issue.
Saudi Arabia and Iran can not only move past the obstacles and problems between them, but they could also revive the key issue of Palestine. I am optimistic President Obama and his administration are looking at the far horizon, and they would not do as George W. Bush did. Obama wants to be remembered as a remarkable man in history. He was the key figure behind the Geneva agreement, and he might be the right person to establish the real state of Palestine. This is not a dream. It will happen, but it needs Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s support. Fifty-five years ago, Hashemi Rafsanjani published a book about Palestine. Back then, he was arrested and tortured because of Palestine. Perhaps through the strengthening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the dream of both leaders and nations—an independent and real state of Palestine—will come true. The UN has named 2014 the Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The resolution was adopted by the majority of member states, with 110 voting in favor, seven opposed and 54 abstaining. The new year has become the best time to focus on Palestine.

Nelson Mandela: A life’s legacy

December 07, 2013/The Daily Star
The passing of Nelson Mandela is an occasion to hear, read and see a wave of tributes to the symbol of triumph over apartheid and the building of a new South Africa.
Mandela was a symbol of many things for many people, so it’s not surprising to find that he represented a whole range of concepts and principles: Democracy, freedom, dignity, equality and coexistence are of course some of the central themes. In the Middle East, the ironies have been rife as the eulogies pour in. Among the Palestinians, it was occasion for the bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas to agree on how Mandela’s struggle has served as an inspiration for their own fight to end Israeli occupation and establish a fully independent state. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry even used Mandela’s passing to encourage the Palestinians and the Israelis to step up their efforts to arrive at a negotiated agreement that he hopes will enhance “peace, prosperity and security.” Israeli leaders also weighed in on the loss of Mandela, albeit to apply the necessary spin; Israel was an ally of apartheid-era South Africa. Perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu saw no irony in praising Mandela as a “freedom fighter,” which was the exact opposite of the official Israeli view for several decades. For the Israelis, Mandela leader had another especially important personal trait. As Shimon Peres stressed, Mandela provided an example of a political leader who “renounced violence.” Are there any Israeli leaders who have the same courage to walk in Mandela’s shoes and completely renounce violence in the interest of peace and coexistence? Even more bizarre was the reaction of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who informed the world, via his Facebook page, that Mandela was an “inspiration to all the vulnerable peoples of the world.” South Africa’s iconic figure, according to Assad, teaches that “oppressors and aggressors will learn that in the end it is they who are the losers.”
Leaving behind the self-serving reactions by some leaders, one should remember that the end of apartheid was based firmly on the achievement of justice and sovereignty. These are the things that allow people to renounce violence, and embrace coexistence. In talking about Mandela’s extraordinary life, one can’t ignore the brutal system of apartheid, and the long struggle by the African National Congress to end it, a fight that saw Mandela spend 27 years in prison. But after Mandela became the president of South Africa, he was often asked to compare his situation as head of state to his long confinement – his preferred response was to avoid dwelling on the details of the past and instead look forward to the future. Mandela’s legacy is thus one of reconciliation, focusing on the challenges of the future and ensuring the continuity of the bright new order that he helped bring into being.